Sunday, May 18, 2014

Grilled Asparagus with Chipotle Butter

Not that fresh grilled asparagus really needs any embellishment, but this is delicious. Chipotle peppers and asparagus make an excellent, if perhaps unexpected, pairing. (If you like this, you should also try my Chipotle Roasted Asparagus and Chipotle Asparagus Scramble.)  Conveniently, it takes just about exactly as long to grill asparagus (unless you have very skinny spears) as it does to grill a good steak to medium rare. Also conveniently, this chipotle butter is great on steak, too.

1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, seeded and very finely minced
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 lb asparagus spears, tough ends snapped off
Canola oil
Salt and pepper

To make the chipotle butter, combine the minced chipotle with the melted butter and mix well. Set aside. You may need to remelt it just before serving, or slather it on the asparagus in a semi-soft state.

Prepare the asparagus for grilled by brushing or spraying it lightly all over with canola oil, then sprinkling with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat for about 6-10 minutes (depending on how fat the spears are and exactly how hot your fire is), turning once or twice.  You want them a bit charred but not blackened.

Serve the asparagus drizzled with chipotle butter, or pass the butter at the table. Chipotles do pack some considerable heat, so start with a little and taste it before adding more.

Serves 3-4, unless you're feeding serious asparagus lovers.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

About Ramps

Every spring I post a few recipes using ramps, but not everybody is familiar with them. They're a wild relative of the garlic and onion family. They are not cultivated but only foraged, and they show up at local markets for only a couple weeks in the spring.

Ramps ready for slicing
You can eat the entire plant (and you should!) with the exception of the roots. I like to slice the bulb and stem thinly, then cut the leave into chiffonade (thin ribbons cut cross-wise). The flavor is mild - you can even eat them raw (at least, this is true of what we call ramps here in New England; I've read a few things suggesting that maybe there are other more pungent plants that are called ramps in other places). Alternatively, try a quick grilling of whole ramps and eat them dipped in romesco sauce.

Whatever you do, if you spot ramps for sale at a farmers market or the local food coop (I saw some recently at Green Fields Market), snap them up! They're delicious, and you won't see them again for another year.

Pizza with Ramps, Eggs, and Bacon

I guess I'm on kind of an egg kick this spring. This is easy and delicious (even my six-year-old liked it!). You can really taste the flavor of the ramps alongside the bacon and egg, and the eggs come out just right with the yolks still gooey.

1 14-inch pizza crust
Olive oil
3 ounces shredded mozzarella
3 ounces ramps (1 small bunch), roots trimmed off and remainder thinly sliced (including leaves)
3 slices cooked bacon, diced
4 eggs (up to 6 if desired)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly paint the pizza crust with olive oil.

Spread the mozzarella over the crust, then spread the ramps and bacon over the cheese. Bake for 12 minutes.

Ready to go in the oven for the first round
Remove the pizza from the oven (leave the oven on). Carefully crack each egg onto the pizza, then carefully put the pizza back in the oven for another 4-6 minutes. You want the whites to be fully set but the yolks to still be gooey (not totally runny).

Serve hot, and slice with care.

Serves 3-4.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Sweet Rhubarb Quick Bread

I always save some strawberries in the freezer for this time of year, when the rhubarb is ready to pick but the strawberries aren't. But rhubarb is great on its own, too. Make this recipe as written, or, if you like, substitute some strawberries (mash partly first).

Rhubarb in the garden
3/4 lb rhubarb stems, stringed and cut into 1/2-inch lengths
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

Place the rhubarb in a microwave proof bowl with a small splash of water and cover with plastic wrap or a plate. Steam on High for 1 minute, stir, then cook for another 1 minute and stir again. The rhubarb should be quite soft and will exude a good bit of liquid. If needed, steam for another 30-60 seconds. Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and stir.

Combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and oil in a large bowl and stir well. Stir in the rhubarb with its liquid. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.

Makes 1 loaf.

Polenta with Spinach, Blue Cheese, and Egg

That's right, Put An Egg On It! I often mix some quinoa into my polenta for an extra nutritional boost, but it's optional. Here that mixture is topped with tomato sauce and fresh spinach, blue cheese, and spring eggs from the farmer's market. I've done pizza topped with eggs, but this was the first time I tried it with polenta and I have to say I was quite pleased with the result.

1 cup polenta (coarse corn meal)
1/2 cup quinoa
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups water
Olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, diced
1/4 lb spinach (or up to 1/2 lb if you want lots of it)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup tomato sauce
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
6 eggs

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Combine the polenta and quinoa in a large saucepan with the water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the water is all absorbed and the polenta is nice and thick. Be careful not to burn yourself as bubbles pop.

While the polenta cooks, heat a little olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and onions and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about another minute. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When the polenta is ready, grease a 9x13-inch baking pan. Spread the polenta in the pan, then spread the tomato sauce over it. Spread the spinach mixture over the tomato sauce, then sprinkle with blue cheese.

Make 6 shallow hollows in the vegetables and polenta. Crack an egg into each one. Bake the polenta for 10-15 minutes, until the egg whites are set and the yolks are still gooey. (Time may vary depending on the size and shape of your hollows and the size of your eggs.)

Serve hot. Serves 6.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Goat Cheese and Thyme Quiche

Another easy and delicious brunch number. Use your favorite pie crust recipe.

1 9-inch pie crust
3 oz goat cheese, crumbled
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Have the pie crust ready to go, pricked with a fork and chilled.

Spread the goat cheese in the bottom of the pie crust. Combine the eggs, milk, salt, and thyme, and pour carefully over the cheese, being sure to avoid overfilling the crust. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until cooked through.

Serves 3-4.

Sausage Cheddar Quiche

Perfect for breakfast or brunch, even lunch. I like to make these with some whole wheat in the pastry, but use whatever is your go-to pie crust recipe.

1 9-inch pie crust (not deep dish)
1/2 lb breakfast sausage, crumbled and cooked
3 oz shredded sharp cheddar
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Have the pie crust ready to go, pricked all over with a fork, and chilled.

Spread the sausage and cheddar in the bottom of the pie crust. Combine the eggs, milk, and salt, and pour over the filling, being careful not to overfill the crust. Carefully transfer the quiche to the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until cooked through.

Serves 3-4.